I would very much like to spend the rest of this review ranting about what a terrible idea “found footage” is. It rarely works, and makes me want to tear my hair out at all the phony jostling of the camera, the grainy footage and the omnipresent, mostly out-of-place, video camera in every scene. It just creates a totally unnecessary schizophrenic feeling of suspension of disbelief and expectancy of reality. But suffice it to say, for the sake of this article, I hated the found footage in Chronicle. It could have been a much better movie without it. Apart from that, Chronicle is definitely a new take on the superhero genre, but nevertheless an unsatisfying one. The superhero powers are well conceptualized and there is not much time wasted on unnecessary fluff. The attempt to explore the teenage psyche is well-intended, but the somewhat unbelievable emotional arcs of the central characters and the somewhat haphazard screenplay leave much to be desired.
The plot follows Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a nerdy, bullied high school student with an alcoholic father and a bed-ridden mother with cancer, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), a somewhat egotistic but friendly guy and Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the school’s popular quarterback and class president, as they become best friends after receiving telekinetic abilities from an unknown object in a cave outside a rave party. The plot’s primary “found footage” comes from Andrew who decides to record everything in his life on video. The group initially uses their abilities mainly to engage in mischief. They develop a plan to fly to Tibet after graduation because Andrew believes it to be peaceful. Then, they encourage Andrew to use his powers for his own personal gain at a school talent show to impress the other students. Andrew impresses everyone, manages to get himself a lady friend, but then pukes on her. Suddenly, this drives him mad. Then his father tries to hit him, and Andrew gets even more mad. Following this sequence of events, Andrew begins to use his powers for darker purposes, causing the viewer to descend into a morality tale about absolute power corruption. Matt, on the other hand, becomes more saintly and less egotistic with his newfound power, and is the yin to Andrew’s yang. Steve is just kind of…there.
If you can look past the “found footage” elephant in the room, the direction is actually quite good. The actors do a good job, though not good enough to explain away the confusing progression of the screenplay. The screenplay starts off well, but then descends into a somewhat weary morality tale and makes logical jumps that baffle. Again, like I said, while it was noble to try to explore the darker aspects of the teenage psyche, the writers should have just brought better torchlights. Where the “found footage” and the teenage emotional arcs were supposed to make the movie more believable and relatable to the real world, they did exactly the opposite. Where the superhero powers were supposed to make the movie seem somewhat far-fetched, they did a good job of making it believable. Schizophrenia is the only word that comes to mind when I think of Chronicle – if that sounds like your cup of tea.
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